Gardening is definitely not a picture-perfect hobby. There are many days spent dealing with powdery mildew, battling against bugs, anguishing over produce stolen by squirrels, and contemplating how on earth I can’t just grow a consistent tomato crop. This year, we have been blessed with a classic Indian summer in Colorado, where the shades of yellow and orange have lingered well into the month of November. In fact, I am still growing French breakfast radishes and arugula outside right now! I finally put most of the garden to rest about a week and a half ago, harvesting hot peppers, spinach, Swiss chard, copious amounts of herbs, and some delicate, green tomatoes. Ahhh, green tomatoes. What to do with them? Last year, I tried frying them, yielding excellent results. This year, I canned them and made green tomato relish. It turned those tart, green tomatoes into a spreadable, herbaceous, sweet-and-savory condiment, which I will enjoy well into the cooler months.
My grandmother used to “put up” and preserve, but unfortunately, we never connected on this subject, when she was alive. As a little girl, I didn’t have the questions for her that I have right now. In her absence, I simply wing it or consult these books: Food in Jars, Small-Batch Preserving, or Canning for a New Generation. When she didn’t can her greenies, she purchased Ritter’s Green Tomato Relish, which is, sadly, no longer available. I tried developing a very similar recipe, using the pre-frost green tomatoes from my garden, and the results were beyond satisfying.
Green Tomato Relish
Inspired by Linda McDaniel’s recipe for “Green Tomato Relish” on allrecipes.com.
- 12 to 15 green tomatoes (about 4 pounds)
- 5 medium onions (about 2 1/4 pounds)
- 12 sweet peppers (sweet banana peppers, Anaheim peppers)
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 green bell peppers
- 2 unseeded jalapeño peppers
- 2 1/2 cups cane sugar
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 tablespoons celery seed
- 2 tablespoons mustard seed
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dill seed
- 1/2 teaspoon star anise
- 1/2 teaspoon juniper berries
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- In a food processor, coarsely grind tomatoes, onions, and all peppers. Do this in batches, by briskly pulsing.
- Place processed tomatoes, onions, and peppers into a colander, lined with cheesecloth. You may also use a fine chinois. Let the tomato mixture drain for one hour.
- In a large stockpot, combine the tomato mixture, sugar, vinegar, and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for five minutes, stirring along the way. Turn off heat, cover, and set aside.
- Sterilize 12 eight-ounce jars and lids (or six one-pint jars and lids).
- Ladle the mixture into the sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch head-space from the top of the jar. Try to release any spaces, bubbles, or air pockets in the jar, by tapping on the lip of the jar with a spoon. Screw on lids.
- Place a rack in the bottom of a large canning stockpot and fill with boiling water. Make sure that the water line will cover the jars by at least two inches. Place the filled jars into the stock pot, leaving about two inches of space between each jar. I was able to process four of these jars at a time, since they were so wide.
- Bring the water to a boil, cover, and process for 30 minutes.
- Remove the jars from the boiling water and set on a heat-proof surface a few inches apart. Let cool. You might hear a “pop”, once the contents have sealed. Once cool, tap the top of each lid, making sure that the seal is tight.
- The relish is ready to enjoy, but try waiting at least two weeks, so that the flavors have sufficient time to integrate. Store the relish for up to one year.
What will you serve with this late-season delicacy? I am planning on serving mine alongside roasted turkey this Thanksgiving, spreading some with hummus and pita, topping over steamed rice and beans, and adding a adding a few dollops on a cheese platter. I can also envision a gourmet hot dog, graced with this tomato relish. Closing with some recent snippets from the garden…
Cheers to a beautiful and memorable fall! Canning and preserving are simple and engaging ways to capture the season’s last push of goodness. I am excited to start some infused vodkas this week, to incorporate into some holiday cocktails! Until then, go rake some leaves, make some cider, or pickle something!